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Review

Martin Miller's Gin

Distillery

The Reformed Spirits Company Ltd., London (made by Langley Distillery, Birmingham), England, UK (and Borganes, Iceland). Imported into the USA by Kindred Spirits Inc., Miami, Florida.

Website

Martin Miller’s and Kindred Spirits.

History

Martin Miller is a true entrepreneur and has numerous successful ventures to his name: Author, Photographer, Hotelier and Concert Organiser; he is best known for his Miller’s Antique Price Guides. With an estimated fortune of $60 million he has concentrated on activities that interest him and it was perhaps only a matter of time before he made a foray into the world of Gin.

Summer 1997 found him in a bar having a lacklustre Gin & Tonic with two friends, which acted as the catalyst for discussing the possible creation of a Gin. Martin was in the right company: David Bromige has a background in developing new drink products for large companies (including Diageo and Pernod Ricard); and Andreas Versteegh runs an investment company. David and Andreas were already working on their own project – Polstar Vodka, made in Denmark but bottled in the little fishing village of Borgarnes, in Iceland.

The discussion went along the lines of: “If money were no object” what would one do “to create a modern classic, a gin for everyone who can appreciate fine gin” where it would “have the scent of oriental flowers at dusk and the fragrance of orange groves on a warm night in Seville.” Using the back of an envelope they started outlining how to go about doing this. One of the many ideas was to use very soft Icelandic water, as they had found it had worked wonders on the Vodka by reducing the harshness of the alcohol on both the nose and palate.

So, off they went and recruited Langley Distillery in the Midlands to help develop the Gin’s recipe. When they had identified what they thought was a great recipe, they invited trade professionals to Westbourne (Martin’s base in Notting Hill, London) to blind sample a range of their recipes. To their relief, the professionals confirmed their preferred choice of recipe also. 18 months of painstaking work resulted in the first batch being ready for production. With worst-case scenario in mind – they would end up with a personal lifelong supply of Gin they liked - they launched this Gin in early 1999.

It is worth noting; in 1999 the sales of Gin – perhaps with the exception of Bombay Sapphire (launched in 1986) - were at a very low ebb and thus, launching a modern styled Gin was a serious gamble and proved to be pioneering. Sales were slow to start and their focus was still on Polstar Vodka, which was finally sold to William Grant & Sons (of Hendrick’s Gin fame) in 2002. In 2003 this Gin was launched in the USA and it wasn’t until 2006 that overall sales started to improve. By 2008 sales amounted to 40,000 cases per annum and continued increasing such that by 2012, sales had reached 150,000 per annum across 40 plus countries. In 2013, after an initial attempt back in 2003, they finally managed to secure a deal to sell their Gin through a national (UK) grocery chain store. With sales expected to increase dramatically, their business aim now is to try and outsell Hendrick’s Gin.

Production

The base is the cleanest neutral grain spirit possible, made from wheat grown in the counties of Essex and Norfolk, in England. This Gin is small batch distilled in Still No.2 a 1903 John Dore & Co. 3,000-liter copper pot still affectionately called Angela, after Langley’s Managing Director’s mother. The Gin is made from 3 separate distillates, the first consists of the “earthy” botanicals e.g. angelica, cassia, juniper etc. (although does contain a little lime peel), which are steeped overnight, and the second distillate consists of all the citrus peels. Note: all of the heads and tails produced during distillation are discarded rather than being reused. The two resultant “earthy and “citrus” distillates are blended together and left to rest for a few days.

Initially this blend of distillates was shipped 1,500 miles from Immingham (between Grimsby and Hull) in North East England to Borgarnes in Iceland (a 10-day, sometimes dangerous, journey), blended with Icelandic water and bottled, then shipped back again. Today, as sales (and thus production levels) have increased a change has been implemented. If the Gin will be for sale in USA it follows the above-mentioned process but instead of shipping back to the UK, it is shipped from Iceland to the USA. If the Gin will be for sale in Europe and Asia, the water is shipped to the UK instead, where it is blended with the distillates and bottled in the UK, ready for sale. This may seem like a lot of trouble, cost and time to go to just for some Icelandic water. However, we have already heard (see “History” above) what impact this water had on the Polstar Vodka and thus (for us at least) worth investigating further:

All distillate produced is a high proof alcohol and has to be reduced down to a drinkable level by blending with water (most Gin is in fact 45 – 60% water). Many Gins use neutral or demineralised water and according to Icelanders this is “dead” water as it has lost it’s “life force”. Iceland, known as the land of “Fire and Ice”, has a glacial and volcanic geological landscape. Their rain fell millennia ago and has taken all that time to filter through the granite and lava, and in particular has created the unspoilt and soft Selyri spring water in the village of Borganes. This is situated at the head of a fjord on the West coast, about 30 miles North (as the crow flies) of the capital Rejkjavik. This 40,000 square mile sized island has just over 320,000 people, making it one of the most sparsely populated places in the world. Despite their remote, often dark and cold location it has an advanced culture with 95% of adults owning a computer and 100% literacy (in fact more books are written per capita than in any other country). However, they do believe in the “hidden people” (either elves or trolls) who live in rocks and water, giving life to the natural world – hence treated water is “dead”. What you choose to believe is up to you, we do know good water produces good Gin, and this Gin is very soft and smooth.

Anyway…back to the Gin’s production…and the third distillate! A small amount of a third distillate, made from cucumber, is added when the other two distillates are blended with the water. The use of the cucumber acts as a “drying agent” (not an intended flavoring) to the palate and whilst Reformed Spirits do not list this as a botanical it is noticeable (to us and others), so we include it as such. Not surprisingly, the idea of using cucumber came from using it in the creation of the Polstar Vodka. Interestingly, we believe this makes Martin Miller’s the first to use cucumber in a Gin and not Hendrick’s, as people tend to believe, who launched their Gin later in 1999 after Martin Miller’s.

The Gin is presented in a tall clear rectangular shaped bottle, with a small grey and navy blue colored label at the top. Screen printed on the back (and visible through the front) is a grey colored map showing the UK and Iceland, with a shipping route marked in red between the two countries.

This Gin is gluten free.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

This was originally listed as a London Dry Gin, but there were concerns raised regarding the later addition of the cucumber distillate. The outcome has resulted in Reformed Spirits redefining this as a Dry Gin, made in the style of a London Dry Gin. For us, Martin Miller's comes somewhere between a London Dry gin, a New Western Dry Gin and a Plymouth Gin, perhaps leaning more towards Plymouth Gin.

Alcohol  By Volume (ABV)

40% (80 Proof).

Price Range

$$ - $$$. Reasonable degree of availability in the USA, try online at: Beltramo’s, Sunset Corners, Budget Bottle, Bevmo or Buy Rite Wines.

Botanicals

Made using 10 botanicals, including: angelica (France), cassia bark (China), coriander, cucumber, juniper berries (Tuscany, Italy & India), lemon peel, lime peel, liquorice root, orange peel (Seville, Spain) and orris root (Florence, Italy).

Name

Named after one of the creators of this Gin, Martin Miller.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are citrus (mostly lemon, but more like grapefruit) and pine (juniper) with floral (jasmine?) notes. On the palate this very smooth and soft full-bodied spirit has fruity citrus (lemon and some bitter orange), juniper and parma violets (orris root) with a little sweetness (liquorice). On the close is a burst of citrus (lemon), dry juniper green freshness (cucumber?) with a long peppery warming spice (cassia bark and coriander) finish. This is a very well balanced Gin with nuances of complexity (albeit a little hard to detect – well for our palates at least).

Whilst it has classic Gin flavors this is not quite your typical London Dry Gin, with more citrus than juniper it may be a little disappointing to some traditional Gin lovers. However, it has a wonderful soft smoothness (tasting more like a cross between a Plymouth Gin and a citrusy New Western Dry Gin) and this is what makes it so palatable for most people, especially non-gin drinkers and light gin drinkers alike. This is certainly a sipping Gin, so much so you might not wish to mix it with anything at all. In a Gin & Tonic the bitter earthy flavors come out more whilst the refreshing citrus lingers and hints of sweetness develop. We liked this most with Fever Tree although we tried a few other brands all of which came in as close seconds. Given its citrus flavors the standard lime garnish (rather than lemon) works well, but consider adding a slice of cucumber too – and for a Spanish feel use 3-4 juniper berries. This makes a marvelous Dry Martini and a wonderful Aviation – it seems to be perfectly at home with any Gin based mixed drink.

No wonder this has won so many awards, it is better (in our view) than Bombay Sapphire and provides greater versatility than Hendrick’s. This is a great Gin and we have absolutely no reservations in recommending this very highly. We would have liked more juniper (see Martin Miller’s Westbourne Gin) but that is more of a personal choice, it does not negate its sheer class. We are only left with one question…why isn’t this more popular? Maybe advertising has been relatively low key and is slowly growing by word of mouth; this should be destined for greater success!

Awards & Accolades

94 Points, Beverage Testing Institute.

93 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

Silver Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.

Master & Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2013.

Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.

Best in Show, Best White Spirit & Double Gold Medal, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, 2012.

Gold Medal, World Spirits Awards, 2012.

Bronze Medal, International Wine and Spirits Competition, 2010.

Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2009.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2009.

Double Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2008.

Trophy & Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2007.

Double Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2007.

Double Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2006.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2005.



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